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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For It's stylish, drives well, and has a huge boot

Against It's not as practical as a Golf

Verdict Does just about everything the Passat can do - for less

Go for… 2.0 TDI SE

Avoid… Any missing a service history

Volkswagen Jetta Saloon
  • 1. A few cars have required steering rack repairs
  • 2. Timing belt tensioners have failed on the 1.6-litre petrol engines
  • 3. This is a saloon based on the Golf, so boot space is massive
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Volkswagen Jetta Saloon full review with expert trade views

The Jetta may not have the ultimate practicality of the VW Golf hatchback it’s based on, but the saloon does have some advantages.

Rear passengers get a better deal, for a start: it’s easier to get into the Jetta’s rear seats and there’s plenty of the room in the back. You also get the same sort of boot space you’d find in a Ford Mondeo - it’s massive - although it could be better shaped and there’s quite a high load lip.

There's plenty of room up front, too, the steering adjusts for rake and reach, and the driver’s seat is height-adjustable. Quality is impessive, as are safety and security, but, like many cars of the era, the thick front A-pillars create a slight blind spot.

Other than its body, perhaps the biggest difference over the Golf is that the Jetta has stiffer suspension. That means it handles very well, although the ride is slightly firm ride around town.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Almost as big as previous Passat. Stick to diesels which are much easier to resell

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

VW didn’t fit the Golf’s basic 1.4-litre petrol engine to the Jetta and instead the range kicks off with a 113bhp, 1.6-litre, direct-injection petrol unit that’s well up to the job. Two other petrol engines are also on offer: a 150bhp non-turbo 2.0-litre and the Golf GTI’s 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo. Both are good.

If you'd prefer a diesel - and we think you should - there's a choice of two turbodiesels, a 103bhp 1.9-litre or a 138bhp 2.0-litre. We recommend the 2.0-litre; its 243lb ft of pulling power provides amazing and effortless acceleration from very low revs.

You won’t be badly off with the entry-level S, which gets six airbags, electric windows, a CD player, alloy wheels and air-con as standard. However, we'd pay the extra for SE, which adds climate and cruise control, a chrome-plated grille and better interior trim, while Sport models have lowered suspension, front foglamps and sports seats.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Not a lot around, but not as big a draw as a Golf, 2.0TDI reliable seller

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Jetta may have a premium image, but the insurance costs are reasonable. Even the high-performance, 197bhp, 2.0-litre turbo is rated in group 15, which is two groups lower than the Golf GTI, even though the Jetta is pretty much as fast. Both, for the record, are rated at 35.3mpg.

The most economical Jetta is the 53.3mpg 1.9 TDI, but the 2.0-litre is not far behind, returning an impressive 48.7mpg. The entry-level 1.6-litre petrol returns 40.9mpg and is the cheapest of the lot to insure with a group 6 rating.

Like the Golf, the Jetta has variable service intervals, so the way you drive could save you money. Look after your car and it could run to 15,000 miles before needing fettling. Servicing costs are pretty to similar to what you’ll pay for the Golf.

Neither are as cheap to look after as the Jetta's Volvo S40 saloon rival, though. The Swedish car is also marginally more economical and, due to its depreciation, less expensive to buy second-hand.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Almost as big as previous Passat. Stick to diesels which are much easier to resell

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

There’s little information available regarding reliability, but given their shared mechanical underpinnings, the Jetta is likely to be afflicted by the MkV Golf’s gremlins.

There have been reports of timing belt tensioners failing on the 1.6-litre petrol engines, while diesel fuel pumps have been prone to leaking. A few cars have required steering rack repairs. Drivers of the MkV Golf have also complained of minor electric problems and headlight faults.

A thorough check of all electrical components, including the air-con, is essential. Check that manual gearboxes change smoothly and that there is no hint of clutch slip. There have been no major recalls on the Jetta, but keep an eye out for these at www.vosa.gov.uk as they may arise.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Not a lot around, but not as big a draw as a Golf, 2.0TDI reliable seller

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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